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Air N.Z. says love in the air for first gay wedding

Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (R) and his partner Justin Mikita attend the Tony Awards on June 9, 2013 in New York. The pair will attend New Zealand's first same-sex marriage, set to take place on a plane at 30,000 feet (9,150 metres).Getty Images/AFP/File

Air New Zealand announced plans to stage the country's first same-sex marriage at an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,000 metres), saying it wants to prove that love is truly in the air.

New Zealand passed a bill allowing gay marriage in April but it does not become law until August 19, when officials say they are expecting a slew of same-sex weddings.

Air New Zealand launched a competition Wednesday for those keen to be the first to tie the knot, saying the ceremony will be staged on an early morning flight from Queenstown to Auckland on August 19. The competition closes on July 26.

The airline said US actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson from TV show "Modern Family" would attend the high-flying nuptials with his partner Justin Mikita.

"Justin and I are thrilled to be taking part in witnessing this historic moment for New Zealand," he said in a statement.

"After launching 'Tie The Knot', our bow tie campaign for marriage equality in the US, it is clear that the journey towards marriage, both in the US and beyond, means so much to us."

However, Air New Zealand faces competition to be first to organise the country's inaugural gay wedding, with two radio stations also announcing plans for similar ceremonies, albeit land-based.

Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages Jeff Montgomery has increased the number of marriage celebrants ahead of the deadline, extending the powers of 120 civil union celebrants so they can also perform weddings.

"We anticipate a strong level of demand from the same sex couples in New Zealand, and also from overseas, to get married, so it makes sense to increase the number of marriage celebrants," he said.